Monday, 15 January 2018 09:34

US backs off from plan to block H-1B visa renewal Featured

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The US appears to have backed down from a plan to stop the renewal of H-1B visas, which is often undertaken by companies who hire workers on such visas, in order that the worker in question can remain in the country long enough to obtain a green card.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services said last week that it was reviewing visa programmes that allow foreigners into the country for employment.

A report said the proposal was being hammered out between the heads of Department of Homeland Security divisions as part of US President Donald Trump's "Buy American, Hire American" campaign promise in 2016.

But following a report that foreign tech workers would be prevented from renewing their H-1B visas, the agency appears to have done a backflip.

“The agency is considering a number of policy and regulatory changes to carry out the President’s Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, including a thorough review of employment based visa programmes,” Jonathan Withington, chief of media relations for USCIS, said.

“What we can say, however, is that USCIS is not considering a regulatory change that would force H-1B visa holders to leave the United States by changing our interpretation of section 104(c) of AC-21, which provides for H-1B extensions beyond the six-year limit,” the agency told the McClatchy news service.

“Even if it were, such a change would not likely result in these H-1B visa holders having to leave the US because employers could request extensions in one-year increments under section 106(a)-(b) of AC21 instead.”

While Withington said UCSIS had never considered such a policy, McClatchy reported that it was told by multiple sources that the policy had indeed been considered and then dropped because of a strong reaction from businesses.

The H-1B visa allows a foreign worker to work in the US for two terms of three years each; many companies extend it further in order to get a green card processed so that the worker in question can continue to work for them.

Since Trump took office nearly a year ago, the US has been clamping down on H-1B visas which are used to take in about 85,000 people a year to work in the country. A large percentage are Indians who work in the technology industry.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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